The Faceless

"And as years passed and there were fewer in the city (and none beyond it) who remembered my face, the wildest stories got about as to what that veil hid."
Orual, Till We Have Faces

A variant of He Who Must Not Be Seen. The audience never gets a good look at this character's face. Specific variants include:
  • Characters who are only ever shown from behind.
  • Characters who are only ever shown while standing behind something.
  • Characters who are only ever shown from the neck down or lower.
  • Characters who always stand in shadow or have their Face Framed in Shadow.
  • Characters who wear a mask or a One-Way Visor.
  • Characters whose eyes are hidden or always closed, but their face is otherwise visible. This is more frequent in anime, which relies strongly on eyes to express emotion and intent.
  • Characters whose first person perspective is revealed, without ever showing their face.

There are several reasons for writing a faceless character, depending on their role in the plot. For a recurring character, hiding their face lends an air of ambiguity to the character and their motives. If said character is a villain, often of the Diabolical Mastermind variety, this additionally serves to make them seem more threatening.

Occasionally, the recurring faceless character will be revealed in an especially poignant scene, typically just before the series (or the character's tenure on it) ends. Villainous characters tend to be hideously disfigured when their masks are removed, though the subversion has become just about as common, where the villain is revealed to be a perfectly ordinary guy. The faceless villain could also be a Mole in the good guys' team the audience doesn't know about yet.

Non-recurring faceless characters tend to be either Cannon Fodder Faceless Goons (whose facelessness removes their individuality, their humanity, and — hopefully — the audience's squeamishness about their deaths), or an Invisible President (whose face is hidden to prevent the episode from being dated by the next election).

May involve being Never Bareheaded. For other parts of the body, see Scenery Censor. If you don't see anything at all from a villain, watch your step; you're up against an Ultimate Evil. For literally faceless characters, see The Blank. Scary Shiny Glasses is related. The hidden-by-shadow version combined with Chekhov's Gunman results in Sinister Silhouettes. If a character never appears at all, they're The Ghost. Sometimes there may be scenes teasing the unmasking, but it often ends up with Unreveal Angle. Unrelated to Faceless Masses, which is more for the artist's convenience than anything.

The mask-wearing kind of The Faceless often end with The Reveal. Sometimes this is a big anticlimax...but then sometimes it just makes things creepier.